July 06, 2010

Telegram from Oxford

I'm just about to get on the road for Nashville, where I am reading at Davis-Kidd tonight (7 PM, 2121 Green Hills Village Drive). After that it's Tupelo this Friday, for a lunchtime event at Reed's Gum Tree Bookstore.

Not sure anything can top the time we had at Square Books last week. A full crowd, the presentation of a gorgeous broadside designed for "The Piano Speaks," and despite all the hollering of my time here at blues show after blues show, my voice held up. (Thanks to not one but two water bottles downed beforehand, and a little light yodeling in the bathroom to loosen my vocal cords.) Richard Howorth, the bookstore's proprietor--and truly, the heart of Oxford, not to mention its former mayor--even reviewed it for the bookstore's blog.

I've been wandering. Went to Greenwood to see Turnrow Books, another great Mississippi independent that could use your support. If you come to Oxford or the Delta, do stop in for a reading or to buy a book. Greenwood is a town that's been revitalized almost singlehandedly by the man behind Viking Range Corporation--Fred Carl, Jr., is a Greenwood native who wanted to bring the wealth back to his hometown. Their latest windfall is that it has been selected as the place of filming for the movie based on Kathryn Stockett's The Help. 

Went to Indianola, where we walked through the new B.B. King museum with Mr. King himself in the house; he was playing later that night. Went to Clarksdale, where I played pool (badly) at Ground Zero and spotted the club's owner--Morgan Freeman--hanging out in the parking lot.

Stopped off at the Shack-Up Inn outside Clarksdale. The compound combines a refurbished Cotton Gin, which has a row of modest rooms called the "bins" (only $65/night) and a central area that doubles as a venue for live music, weddings, and probably the occasional throw-down party apropos of nothing.

The main attraction is the cluster of shotgun shacks that were rescued from historic properties where they would have been demolished. Each has been fixed up a bit, but not too much, as a standalone rental property. The devil and the divinity is in the details, which could easily feel like exploitative kitsch in the wrong hands. But I liked it.

I've been trying to figure out how to put into words what my time here is meaning to me. But I'll let Eudora Welty take care of it:

"it's the living that makes me want to write, not reading--although it's reading that makes me love writing."

Sometimes you gotta do the living first, and trust that the words will follow.